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New Device Helps Children With Muscle Disease Move Their Hands

  • Deborah Block

Children with diseases like muscular dystrophy may have a hard time moving with their weakening muscles. Now a new device, called Vigor, could help. The mechanism gives their muscles an additional boost to complete movements such as bending their wrists.

"What the user needs to do is just use a little bit of force with the device," said Vigor's designer, Xinyang Tan. It "will provide extra strength on the muscle to help the children complete the movement."

Tan, a graduate student at the Royal College of Art in London, was born with cerebral palsy, so he knows what it's like to have weak muscles.

A new device called Vigor could help people with muscle-weakening diseases, such as muscular dystrophy, complete movements such as bending their wrists.

A new device called Vigor could help people with muscle-weakening diseases, such as muscular dystrophy, complete movements such as bending their wrists.

The new apparatus, which goes over the hand and arm, has electromyography sensors on its sleeve that detect muscle signals and recognize what the user is about to do. It then sends a signal to the support mechanism on the wrist to trigger actuators that assist the muscle movement. By supporting the weak muscles, it helps the children finish their movement.

"Most of the diseases, like muscular dystrophy, are progressive, so the symptoms will become worse and worse, the muscles will become weaker and weaker," Tan said. So, he points out, if the children exercise their muscles using the device, their limbs will become stronger and more mobile.

There's no cure for muscular dystrophy, although symptoms may improve with treatment such as physical therapy.

This drawing of Vigor illustrates how the device can give muscles an additional boost to help complete movements such as bending the wrist.

This drawing of Vigor illustrates how the device can give muscles an additional boost to help complete movements such as bending the wrist.

Tan hopes Vigor will make it easier for children with muscle diseases to perform tasks such as eating and moving a computer mouse.

There are devices on the market for children with cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, but Vigor is the first mechanism that enables the joints to move.

"The product is more like giving dynamic or automatic support based on your feelings," Tan explained, and "fully control it like normal people."

Tan hopes Vigor will provide help and hope to children with muscular diseases. He has a startup business and plans to market Vigor once he's perfected the apparatus.

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